Varg Vikernes in 2009
|Also known as||Count Grishnackh|
Burzum (//; Norwegian: [ˈbʉ̀rtsʉm]) was a Norwegian music project founded by Varg Vikernes in 1991. Although Burzum never played live performances, it became a part of the early Norwegian black metal scene and is considered one of the most influential acts in the history of black metal. He has also released four dark ambient and neofolk albums. The word "burzum" means "darkness" in the black speech, a fictional language crafted by Lord of the Rings writer J. R. R. Tolkien. Burzum's lyrics and imagery are often inspired by fantasy and Norse mythology, and do not feature the political views Vikernes is known for.
Vikernes founded Burzum in 1991 and recorded the first four Burzum albums between January 1992 and March 1993. From 1994 to 2009, Vikernes was imprisoned for the murder of Mayhem guitarist Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth and the arson of three churches. While imprisoned, he recorded two dark ambient albums using only synthesizers, as he did not have access to drums, guitar or bass. Since his release from prison in 2009, he has recorded several more albums.
Early years (1988–1992)
Varg Vikernes began making music in 1988 with the band Kalashnikov. The following year, the name was changed to Uruk-Hai, after the creatures from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. In 1990 and 1991, Vikernes played guitar for the death metal band Old Funeral, which also consisted of members who would later form the band Immortal. He appears on the Old Funeral EP Devoured Carcass. Vikernes left Old Funeral in 1991 to concentrate on creating his own musical visions. He had a short lived project called Satanel, along Abbath Doom Occulta. He then began a solo project under the name Burzum. The word "burzum" means "darkness" in the Black Speech, a language crafted by Tolkien. Soon after recording two demo tapes, he became part of the Norwegian black metal scene. With his demo tapes, he had attracted attention from Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth of Mayhem, who had just recently formed Deathlike Silence Productions. Aarseth then signed Burzum to the label, and shortly after, Vikernes ―under the pseudonym of Count Grishnackh―, began to record Burzum's self-titled debut album. According to Vikernes' autobiography on his website, he had intended to record the album in the worst recording quality possible (due to this being a typical trademark of the early Norwegian black metal scene), while still making it sound acceptable. Burzum's eponymous debut album was released in 1992, being the second album released on Deathlike Silence Productions. The song "War" from this album had a guest appearance from Euronymous, playing a guitar solo "just for fun", according to Vikernes.
Vikernes has stated that he had never played any live shows with Burzum, though at one point was interested in it,[failed verification] so Samoth of Emperor accompanied him as a session bassist, though only appearing on the Aske EP. Additionally, Erik Lancelot was hired to be the band's drummer, though did not record on any Burzum material, and along with Samoth did not play a live show. Vikernes had by then lost his interest in playing live concerts, and stated that he "didn't even need session musicians anymore". Therefore, Samoth and Lancelot had parted ways with Burzum. Det som engang var was released as Burzum's second album in 1993, recorded in 1992.
May 1994 saw the release of Hvis lyset tar oss, a new album of previously recorded material from 1992. Burzum remained as a solo project until 1994, when Vikernes was arrested for the murder of Euronymous and the burnings of several churches in Norway. During his time in prison, Vikernes released his next album, titled Filosofem, on 1 January 1996. Recorded in March 1993, Filosofem was the last recording Vikernes made before his imprisonment. Burzum / Aske, a compilation comprising the Burzum album and Aske EP, was released in 1995. While imprisoned, Vikernes managed to record two other albums in a dark ambient style. They were released as Dauði Baldrs (1997) and Hliðskjálf (1999). Both of these albums were used with a synthesizer as Vikernes was prohibited from using any other instruments in prison.
In 1998, all Burzum albums released up to that point were re-released as vinyl picture discs in a special box set called 1992–1997; however the Filosofem album didn't contain "Rundtgåing av den transcendentale egenhetens støtte" due to its length. The regular vinyl issue of Filosofem on Misanthropy had tracks 1–4 plus "Decrepitude II" on side 1 and "Rundtgåing av den transcendentale egenhetens støtte" on side 2.
Post-imprisonment and retirement (2009–2018, 2020)
Soon after being released, Vikernes started writing new tracks (nine metal tracks and an ambient intro and outro) for an upcoming Burzum album. According to Vikernes' recounts, several record companies were interested in releasing his first album in eleven years. He stated about the new album, "I want to take my time, and make it the way I want it. It will be metal, and the fans can expect genuine Burzum."
The album was going to be originally titled Den hvite guden ("The White God"), but he later decided to change it to Belus, which was released by the independent record label Byelobog Productions (byelobog is the transliteration of "белобог" in Slavic languages, meaning "white god") on 8 March 2010. It was also announced that a movie would be released in 2010, based on Varg Vikernes' life in the early 1990s. The movie would mainly draw inspiration from the book Lords of Chaos, with the film being of the same name. Vikernes expressed his contempt towards both the movie and the book upon which it is based.
A second new album of original Burzum material, Fallen, was released on 7 March 2011, followed by a compilation album, From the Depths of Darkness, containing re-recordings of tracks from Burzum's self-titled album and Det som engang var, on 28 November 2011. A third new studio album of original material, titled Umskiptar, was released in May 2012. Sôl austan, Mâni vestan ("East of the Sun, West of the Moon"), Burzum's first electronic album since 1999, was released in May 2013. On April 27, 2013, a song was posted on the official YouTube channel of Vikernes, titled "Back to the Shadows." In a blog post, Vikernes stated that "Back to the Shadows" will be the last metal track released by Burzum.
In June 2018, in a video posted on his YouTube channel, Vikernes stated that "[he had] moved on [from Burzum]", saying "bye bye" to the project.
In July 2018, a Youtube user named Hermann posted unreleased materials of Uruk-Hai from 1988-90 and Burzum's Bergen prison recordings from 1994, which he received from Tiziana Stupia.
In October 2019, Vikernes posted a tweet saying he intended to release another album as Burzum. He announced that the tentative name of the album will be Thulêan Mysteries, which will have 23 songs.[better source needed] The tracks from the album were previously used as background music on Vikernes' YouTube channel, which was taken down the same year. Vikernes also said that the music of Thulêan Mysteries is meant to be used as a background soundtrack for his MYFAROG Role-playing game. On 18 December, Vikernes tweeted the album cover for Thulêan Mysteries and announced its release date as 13 March 2020.
Thulêan Mysteries was released on March 13, 2020. Varg has stated that this will be the last Burzum album.
Burzum's music includes both straightforward black metal as well as dark ambient, neofolk and neo-medieval music. It is often minimalist and dark, with hypnotic repetition and simple song structures. Vikernes has described Burzum as a kind of "spell" or recreation of an imaginary world tied in with Pagan history. Each album, he claims, was designed as a kind of "spell" in itself, with each beginning song intending to make the listener more susceptible to "magic", the following songs to inspire a "trance-like state of mind", and the last song to carry the listener into a "world of fantasy" (dreams, for the listener would fall asleep—Burzum was supposed to have been evening music). Vikernes claims the intent to create this fantasy world came from dissatisfaction with the real world. He has stated the "message" of Burzum can be found in the lyrics of the first song of the first album ("Feeble Screams from Forests Unknown").
Burzum's lyrics and imagery are often inspired by fantasy and Norse mythology, and do not feature the right-wing political views Vikernes is known for. In a 2010 interview, Vikernes said: "Burzum is not a political or religious band, or even an anti-religious band. Burzum is music; art if you like, and the interpretation of art lies in the eye of the beholder. I might be Nordic, heterosexual and have a Pagan ideology myself, but why would I expect the fans of my music to be just like me?".
Burzum's early work was influenced by Tolkien; for example, Vikernes' early moniker "Count Grishnackh" is taken from an orc character called Grishnákh in Tolkien's works. Burzum is a word of the Black Speech of Mordor meaning "darkness" (though Vikernes views what Christians consider "darkness" as "light"), and is inscribed on the One Ring in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
- Main releases
- Burzum (1992)
- Det som engang var (1993)
- Hvis lyset tar oss (1994)
- Filosofem (1996)
- Dauði Baldrs (1997)
- Hliðskjálf (1999)
- Belus (2010)
- Fallen (2011)
- Umskiptar (2012)
- Sôl austan, Mâni vestan (2013)
- The Ways of Yore (2014)
- Thulêan Mysteries (2020)
- Aske (1993)
- Mythic Dawn (2015)
- Forgotten Realms (2015)
- Thulean Mysteries (2015)
- Reh/Demo '91 (1991)
- Burzum Promo (1992)
- Cymophane (1994 - 1998) (Uruk-Hai and Burzum)
- Music videos
- "Dunkelheit" (1996)
- Compilation albums
- Burzum / Aske (1995)
- 1992–1997 (1998)
- Anthology (2002) (bootleg)
- Draugen – Rarities (2005) (bootleg)
- Anthology (2008)
- From the Depths of Darkness (2011)
- Other appearances
- Presumed Guilty (1998) (contributed "Et hvitt lys over skogen")
- Gummo soundtrack (1998) (contributed "Rundtgång Av Den Transcendentale Egenhetens Støtte")
- Fenriz Presents... The Best of Old-School Black Metal (2004) (contributed "Ea, Lord of the Depths")
- Current line-up
- Varg Vikernes (Sometimes credited as "Count Grishnackh") – vocals, lyrics, guitars, bass guitar, drums, synthesizer (1991–1995, 1998, 2009-2018)
- Additional personnel
- Euronymous – lead guitar on "War", gong on "Dungeons of Darkness" both from Burzum (1992)
- Samoth – bass guitar on "Stemmen fra tårnet" & "A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit" both from Aske (1992)
- Thomas, Fred. "Burzum - Sôl Austan, Mâní Vestan review". Allmusic. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
- Spracklen, Karl. "True Norwegian Black Metal", in Sounds and the City: Popular Music, Place and Globalization. Springer, 2014. p.194
- "Burzum - The Ways of Yore". Allmusic. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
- Dunn, Sam (2005). Metal: A Headbanger's Journey (motion picture). Canada.
- Patterson, Dayel (July 20, 2016). "20 of the best black metal albums from the 1990s". Team Rock.
- Hopper, Jessica (August 29, 2013). "The Complicated Appeal Of Black Metal". Buzzfeed.
- Sigel, Zack (August 7, 2015). "Are Music Streaming Services Doing More Harm Than Good To The Metal Community?". VH1.com.
- Vikernes, Varg (December 2004). "A Burzum Story: Part I". burzum.org. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- Von Helden, Imke. Norwegian Native Art: Cultural Identity in Norwegian Metal Music. LIT Verlag, 2017. pp.35, 179
- "Samoth". Metal-archives.com. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
- ""Greven" angrer ingenting – magasinet – dagbladet.no". dagbladet.no (in Norwegian). 4 July 2009. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- "Burzum – Discography – Official Releases – "Belus" 2010". burzum.org. December 2009. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- Vikernes, Varg (November 2009). "Varg Vikernes – A Burzum Story: Part XII – Belus". burzum.org. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- Vikernes, Varg (December 2009). "Varg Vikernes – The Lord of Lies: Part VI – The Lords of Chaos Movie". burzum.org. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- "Burzum – Discography – Official Releases – "Fallen" 2011". burzum.org. January 2011. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- "Burzum – Discography – Compilations – "From the Depths of Darkness" 2011". burzum.org. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- "Burzum and Varg Vikernes News and Updates". burzum.org. Archived from the original on 4 February 2012. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- Vikernes, Varg (11 February 2013). "Burzum News; "East of the Sun, West of the Moon". | Ancestral Cult". ancestralcult.com. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- "Back to the Shadows". YouTube. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- "Shadows of the Mind". Thulean Perspective. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- "Burzum and Varg Vikernes news and updates". Burzum.org. Archived from the original on 4 February 2012. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- "Varg Vikernes Has Ended Burzum for Good: 'Burzum Is My Painful Past in a Reeking Bog'". Ultimate Guitar Archive. June 3, 2018. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
- "Some adventures never have an end.... It was not my intention to make another Burzum album, but it so happens that I have so much unreleased music by now, that I actually plan to release another Burzum album soon. It will be MYFAROG/Thulê themed Hopefully an end to this folly". Retrieved 8 October 2019.
- "Burzum and Varg Vikernes News and Updates". 23 October 2019. Retrieved 5 November 2019.
- Haunting The Chapel No. 8. Stereogum, 10 March 2010.
- Vikernes, Varg. "Varg Vikernes – Paganism: Part III – The One Ring". burzum.org. Retrieved 25 May 2013.